Preserving Herps

Today I preserved three reptiles for scientific collections. To do this the reptiles were first frozen in a deep freeze to kill all parasites and to stop the animal from rotting (especially important because most of the animals we got at road-kill). They are then thawed and rinsed in water. The lizards and salamanders are positioned with their front limbs extended Super Man style and their back limbs bent at a 90 degree angle at the knee joint. Their tails are straitened, unless they are long in which case they are doubled back along the body. Snakes are massaged to relax the muscles then laid out straight. Formalin (formaldehyde and water) are injected into the body cavity; in lizards the limbs and tail are either pricked to allow in formalin or injected with it. Amphibians are not injected; their permeable skin will absorb it once in the jar. The snakes are injected along the length of the body with special care taken to inject formalin into each of the three sections of the coelomic cavity. Lizards and amphibians are put into jars in the position they were posed in prior to injection. Snakes are coiled in the jar. The jars are then filled with formalin and left to sit for 7-10 days. At this point the animals are washed in water and placed in ethanol (except for larvae and eggs which are kept in formalin).
I worked on a male Jackson's Chameleon, female Long-nosed Snake, and a female Lyre Snake (in order in the pictures). Jackson's Chameleons are a species native to east Africa and are a popular species of pet. This particular critter was a pet and was donated to the research collection. Long-nosed Snakes are native to much of the western US and Mexico. They are nonvenomous and fossorial. Lyre Snakes are mildly venomous and rear-fanged. They are found in California, Texas and Mexico.

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